Life on the Farm

I can’t believe it’s February already, my Winter Break, which is usually very restful, was a whirlwind of moving and puppies – definitely not restful at all! We are slowly settling in at Bright Acres. So the good news is that we ended up with some great dog kennel panels to make into a dog run for the dogs, so that was so helpful considering there are no fences on the property. SO MUCH MUD though! It was definitely worth putting in a compacted gravel and then bark chips and building the dogs a patio out there. They now have a nice clean and safe place to potty. The plan is to install a dog door they can use, though maybe not until the puppy is housebroken (which, uh, may not be quickly!). I think the cats could go out in the kennel too, and probably not be able to climb the chain link, because they are horribly unathletic things. So that is making me very happy. Though I wish it were covered … I haven’t ruled out putting in a covered area for them out there, we shall see. Lots of other projects to do!

The house is slowly looking more like a house, getting a lot of projects completed, a few more still to go, debating fencing in the backyard. While I like having the potty yard, it would be nice to have a place where they can run around unsupervised as well. However, they also just love making loops around the house and barn, which would throw off that fun activity. Knock on wood, they are all doing well respecting the boundaries of the property, so not terribly worried about fencing the whole thing. Well, except for Bryn – I’m pretty worried she’s going to catch on about Noah’s Ark next door, they have sheep, goats, horses, pigs, tortoises, llamas, cows, ducks, geese, chickens, bunnies, dogs, emus, and god knows what else over there. And Bryn has ZERO recall around livestock. The fencing they have tiny Bryn can EASILY get through, so we just don’t go over there. I COULD put a harness with a stick across to keep her from going through the fence, but we’ll see if I have to go that far.

The animals all seem very happy here, with the big surprise being Dragon, who is like a whole new cat, and has been since day one. For some reason the cats needed zero acclimation to the new house. The walked in like they owned the place and have enormously happy in their new home ever since. Dragon especially is just super happy, friendly, following me around and wanting to cuddle all the time. Where has THIS cat been for the last five years?! I have no explanation for it, but I love seeing it. There are so many birds and windows for the cats to watch them, the love running around the house and having more cat towers again.

It’s crazy how beautiful it is out here, I have always loved this area with the rolling hills and wineries. Even in the middle of winter it’s just gorgeous. I’m sure someday I’ll take it for granted, but every day is still pretty magical. Can’t wait for spring, it’s going to be amazing. Neighbors are really nice, the farmers that lease my big field live just across the street and they were super nice and take really good care of it.

This place has just about everything I was looking for, including lots of big trees and water on the property. I’m not sure how much of a pain having water on the property is going to be though – the dogs are in it CONSTANTLY. Right now it’s swimmable, but very cold. I imagine it’s much less water in the summer, but I think they’ll still be in it constantly. So how annoying THAT will get … we shall see. One of the big questions right now is Dogs vs Nutria. I really don’t know anything about nutria, but I assumed they would just stay out of the dogs way – and my dogs don’t really hunt things, so I wasn’t worried about it. However, apparently nutria can go after dogs, so I may be looking at my own trapping operation. They are an invasive species and very prolific, so it’s certainly legal to go ‘hunting’ for nutria – but not my idea of a good time. So far, there have been no nutria fights despite the dogs constantly being in the stream, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile, Asher has been BUSY. I may not be unpacked, but Asher had his Nursery herding debut up at Fidos! He is SUCH a good boy, I continue to be amazed by him. It wasn’t the prettiest run, but one missed flank with Asher and you have quite a mess to fix – that boy does not really do small flanks …. So we’ve had that issue before, where he’s not as good with his flanks in competition, and I can understand that. The funny part was he took all his whistles perfectly, it was the verbals he messed up with! Everything I was worried about he did great with. Nice outrun, lied down on his whistle at the top immediately (I still find that novel after arguing with Haku and Navarre so much about that!), nice lift, just missed the panels because I was trying NOT to be too flanky … and he could have used a flank there. Then he took a wrong flank coming into the turn around the post, so that was wild, and his (our) driving was pretty darn drunken, including a couple more incorrect flanks. It was a weird course though, including driving back through the fetch panels and to the backside of the cross drive panels. But we ended with a perfect pen … because Fido’s sheep pen themselves, but hey. I was happy with what we did, though I would have loved a rerun to be able to fix things! Maybe next time, as we are entered the end of February too. We won’t have much practice between now and then, but we’ll do what we can.

And then Asher’s third day of agility trialing, this time jumpers and standard – his first attempt at standard. His dogwalk at the arena had been looking really good, but you never know what he might do in the ring. It was also his first time seeing the ‘haunted timers’ from his first trial, but he didn’t notice them at all this time. At home he’s been less freaky as well, seems to be mostly over his ‘I can’t walk on laminate flooring’ issue at least. Overall at the trial he was much more settled … which is a relative term. It’s crazy how high he gets with agility, which he certainly does not with herding.

The jumpers course was really tight, I’m amazed at the distances they’ll keep putting up in AKC. So he ran around a jump which I went back to fix, but probably shouldn’t have. I did feel like he saw it but just wanted to go faster though. And then hit his weaves and stayed in the first time – woot! So that was a first. He did knock two bars, one where I stopped when he ran around the jump, and the last jump where he was just being young and dorky. But not bad, running him in a trial is kind of like holding one of those ‘water weenies’, I always feel like he’s just squirting off and I’m trying to catch him. And he wasn’t as distracted by the people either and happily tugged on his leash at the end. Very pleased with that run, big improvement.

Standard was a really nice novice course, not the easiest dogwalk exit as it was a soft turn off the exit. So when he had a lovely adjusted stride to hit that dogwalk I was THRILLED … and then totally forgot where I was going, it was the same opening as the Masters course, but no tunnel after that jump … which, uh, I finally realized and was completely out of position to handle the middle of the course. But awkwardly got him to the teeter where he aggressively flew to the end … and off … and then jumped back on and fixed it. What a good boy! And then I was, once again, out of position and more awkward handling to the table, which he has never seen in competition and I never practice with – no problem! And then finally he hits yet another weave entrance from tough angle and finishes jumping the broad confidently! I was super pleased with his standard debut, and very optimistic that baby dog can handle continue to do a bit of trialing. We obviously need to work on sequencing in general, but the obstacle performance was there, obviously the enthusiasm and he was much more in his skin this time around. I think we will eventually become a good team in agility!

Asher also went to his first agility seminar, with Desiree. He was, uh, really high. It was a good experience for him, just a half day. We did a couple runs and our last time I spent asking Desiree about collection ideas for him (which he was definitely NOT doing during the seminar …). She felt the basic straight line collection to extension grid exercise was where we should start. So we took that home and we did work on it, starting as she recommended with no bars at all – and it looked pretty good. Really low bars, still looked good – any actual height combined with speed and it was all over. The plan was to hold Asher to a criteria that he showed he could do with the lower heights. So if he had a wide turn, we’d stop and correct it. Well that was an epic fail, turns out that if you stop to correct a wide turn Asher just thinks that you really wanted him to do some backside or threadle instead. So we made zero progress, Asher got frustrated and we gave it up. So back to the drawing board with collection.

As for Navarre, his weird peeing issue continues to be a mystery as he’s still having ridiculously long urinating issues – like as long as they were when we first went into the vet. So I went ahead and brought him into the vet again, see what else might be going on with him. This is, yet again, another new vet. So far, they seem nice, they are, like everywhere, very busy and weeks out with appointments. The vet was nice, the techs were nice. I find it interesting how every vet I’ve been to lately is really keen to pass on the grain free diet DCM information. Navarre did his ‘butt dance’ so they didn’t initially check out the prostate until I assured them that’s just his fancy moves and he’s not actually in distress (or, at least, not as much as he acts like). Prostate is still not enlarged. We are playing with anti-inflammatories again, starting with just gabapentin to see if that makes a difference or not. So far, he does seem to be better on just the gabapentin, which points to a nerve pain rather than muscular/skeletal. The bloodwork came back mostly normal, no issues with the kidneys which was a question. He was on the low side of … protein? She felt he may be losing protein somewhere, possibly in his urine. So we were going to recheck in a few weeks and see what had happened there.

Navarre did go to his first trial in a year! Just standard and jumpers, I decided he should finish his MACH this year – there is no reason he shouldn’t, it’s just actually trialing. He knocked a bar in standard right off, and had some other goofy stuff that I probably would have worked harder if he hadn’t, but looked good. And a nice jumpers run, which felt a little slow, but I’m used to running Asher, who has a lot more gas in the tank in general – but now I’m wondering about the foot. He SEEMED to have a great time, barked his head off and loved having his special time. Then we went up to the river and he got to swim and romp and seemed fine … until the next day. So the foot injury, did it happen then? Hmmm …

And then I don’t know what the heck he did, but he’s currently dead lame on his front right. He seemed fine the night before, so I don’t know if he hurt it somehow in the dog run when I let him out that morning? Or from romping the day before? But it seems to be a foot issue, and he’s super sad not putting any weight on it. Anti-inflammatories don’t seem to have any effect. So, yeah, that sucks. We have been to the vet, xrays show no broken bones. Shaving the area shows some red marks – bite marks maybe? Scratches? Completely unrelated? So we tried antibiotics to see if there was some sort of infection going on. No effect for quite a while, but then finally seemed to improve like a week later. Then I caved and let him run on the beach when we went out unexpectedly when the power went out from our epic ice storm (what a winter we’ve had!). But even with all that running on the beach, no change, just still a slight limp. So I figured the antibiotics were doing their job and let him run around at home too. Which was fine for a few days … then he came up dead lame again, total tripod, won’t put any weight on it. Was it related to more activity? Running out of antibiotics? It’s definitely his foot, but I just don’t know what the issue is. We go back to the vet on Monday.

Haku is doing well, loving the property and perhaps being even more annoying than ever. I have to put him away if I’m training the puppy, he just can’t seem to not bark at the top of his lungs. But one thing with all the wet dogs we have around here, we’re using the dog room with crates for when they’re drying off. So a lot more sleeping in crates than we have done – but Haku always gets to sleep with me, so he’s liking not having the other dogs interrupting his cuddle time.

As for Bryn, OMG, I just love this puppy – and I’ll admit it doesn’t hurt at all that she’s FREAKISHLY cute. She looks like a stuffed animal with her little tiny legs, fluffy teddy bear ears, dark baby yoda eyes and adorable little face. She can pretty much get away with murder because I just dissolve into a puddle when she turns on the charm. She knows really nothing at this point, which is really weird having a 4 month old puppy with no skills on her. Getting a puppy when they’re older is harder, she already has a lot of opinions about how things work and convincing a 4 month old is much trickier than an 8 week old who doesn’t know better. Then of course things have been so chaotic around here there has been very little training going on anyway, so we have a four month old with NO RECALL on a property with no fences – good times! We are finally getting past the keep away stage, if she doesn’t want to do something, she’s not shy about it. Girl have OPINIONS on things.

Bryn is both ridiculously cuddly and sweet yet VERY independent. She doesn’t need me at all most of the time! If she gets scared or uncertain she’ll come to me for reassurance, but she’s a pretty confident pup – she doesn’t need much reassurance! So she has two modes, her soft and sweet people focused mode – and then her on a mission people are irrelevant mode. On our last hike I never saw her at all, she was off adventuring and people were slow and stupid and she had no need for us. Recall? Definitely not. So when we ran across the deer on the trail that was kind of scary! Thankfully she at least feels the need for canine back up, and eventually came back when we didn’t head in that direction.

I feel like I’m just now starting to see the Real Bryn, with so many homes and change I didn’t feel like she was really settled in and feeling secure with us. We have done some training, but she just hasn’t been ready to seriously look at anything. Getting her to offer behavior had been a struggle, her natural inclination is to melt into a puddle and look sad when in doubt. So we have just been working on getting her experiment and understand how to make the training go and that trying things is fun. The tricks she came up with when we were playing ‘reward anything cute’ are ADORABLE. She has a ‘bounce’ move that has become her go-to when offering behavior which is just kills me. She’s starting to bark and push and demand more now, we’re getting there. She does now wave with both paws, lay on her side, hand touch, leg weave, hold an object, retrieve to hand, send to a station, left and right, lie down and, of course, the bounce. We have started some stay behaviors, but it’s not on cue – it’s a little dangerous to reward stationary behaviors with her, it’s hard to get her going again once you do! She likes food, but I wouldn’t say she’s super food motivated.

Finally got her more onto toys, but it’s still a process. She likes the movement, and tugging is coming along. She was very tentative at first, thinking that I wanted the toy so she would let me have it. We can now tug for quite a while with some physical touch while she’s tugging, but not too much vocalization on my part. She CAN retrieve, but it’s still not her default, she likes to hoard all the toys. It’s very cute, I have the toys in a rubbermaid bin right now and she’s so short she has to jump into the bin, grab the toy and jump out – she likes to take out ALL the toys. He favorite toys so far are a family favorite, the little squeaky toys – she LOVES playing two toys games in the arena with those things.

The boys LOVE HER – absolutely adore her! If she never does anything else she has made the household complete. She has fit in perfectly, even Haku likes her – and the boys are much happier and doing better together as well (to be fair, I think Navarre’s neuter also helped!). She loves to play with both Asher and Navarre, but doesn’t have an edge to her (at least, not yet!). She likes to play keep away with toys, which is Haku’s favorite game, so he’s thrilled with her too. Knock on wood, while she likes to herd the other dogs, we cracked down on biting from day one and she’s not hanging off of them.

Of course, especially on the property she can’t even get CLOSE to the dogs. Bryn is TINY – and her legs are exceptionally short. So even at four months old there is absolutely no chance she can keep up with the big dogs at all. And, lord, how she tries – those little nubbins are going warp speed and she just gets left in the dust. She IS getting bigger, I’ll admit that after she was hanging out with a 10 week old female aussie pup who was BIGGER than Bryn at 4 months I started to wonder if there was something wrong with her. But she’s very robust, just short. She IS getting quite thick – she’ll be quite the little lowrider, I think. She’s probably … 14 inches now? She was 14 lbs last week at the vet for her vaccinations. My hope is that she’ll get to jump 16, with her little legs that will be much easier, I think! So fingers crossed for under 18 inches, I think we have a shot at it, but you never know. She’s definitely in a growth spurt at the moment and her little legs are getting a little longer. She’s teething and her papillion ears have fallen to rose ears at the moment, she’s getting fluffier (and super soft!). Time will tell what she will look like, but hopefully some day she can kind of keep up with the boys!

I did get her DNA tests back, and, big relief, no CEA – which was my biggest worry as it’s so common in border collies and herding folks don’t usually do any testing. She is a CEA carrier and a carrier for EOD too, but nothing exciting otherwise. Which is what you want in a DNA profile! I keep worrying there must be something wrong with her, but apparently she’s just perfect! We have one more lepto shot to go, but her puppy vaccinations are done, so it’s nice not to worry about that anymore. I did decide to vaccinate everyone, lots of coyotes and with the nutria I don’t know if they carry lepto, but they are water dwelling rodentia that my dogs are playing in all the time.

I just adore her and it’s funny that she’s not what I envisioned, but apparently what I was waiting for. She is DEFINITELY going to like sheep, that’s for sure! She had seen them at Bonnie’s, but we did a couple sessions with her last week as well – once at Dave’s and once at Brigand’s. Just a couple minutes to let her know there are actually things I WANT her to herd! She is FIERCE, it was so fricken hilarious seeing a 14 lb munchkin with nubbin legs turn a sheep. Standing up to sheep is NOT going to be a problem. She’s not one of Nature’s Fetchers, she just wants to go to the heads and hold them and finds people to be extraneous to the process at the moment. I have no doubt she won’t be easy like Asher, but I think she’ll have different strengths. In training at home she seems very soft, that may not be true on sheep. I don’t know what she’ll think of agility, but I’m pretty sure I have a sheepdog on my hands. And just one very sweet and awesome little girl – love her!